1. Get copies of your criminal records
Collect information about your arrests, charges, and court results. Learn more about Where to find your criminal records.
3. Fill out the forms
Use our Expungement and sealing program to help you fill out the forms you will need to file.
4. File the forms
File your forms with the Circuit Clerk in the county where you were arrested or charged with the offense. In some counties, you may have to attach copies of your court dispositions. In Cook County, file your forms with the Circuit Clerk in the district where you were arrested.
Call the Circuit Clerk and ask how much it will cost to file your forms and the types of payment (cash, check, credit, online) they take and the number of copies required.
If you cannot afford the fee, fill out and file an Application for Waiver of Court Fees
No matter which way you file, the Circuit Clerk will stamp your form. This stamp is your proof that the form was filed with the court. They will then mail your Request with the Notice of Filing for Expungement and/or Sealing to each of the following:
- County State’s Attorney
- Arresting Agencies (police departments)
- Chief Legal Officers of the cities, towns, and villages where you were arrested
- Illinois State Police
Keep one copy of the form that was stamped by the Circuit Clerk for your own records.
3 ways to file
How to file In person
Go to the courthouse in the county or district where your court case should be filed. Give the Circuit Clerk your original form and the required number of copies to stamp. The Circuit Clerk will keep the original form and give back your copies. Pay the filing fee or file your Application for Waiver of Court Fees.
How to file by mail
If you will be asking for a fee waiver, there may be local rules requiring you to file your Application for Waiver of Court Fees in person. Ask the Circuit Clerk if you have to file in person. In Cook County, you must go in person to have your fees waived.
If you do not need to appear in person, mail your original form including your Application for Waiver of Court Fees and one copy to the Circuit Clerk to stamp. If you do not need to have your fees waived, mail your original form and the required number of copies to the Circuit Clerk to stamp. Include the Letter to the Circuit Clerk. Include a self-addressed and stamped envelope for the Circuit Clerk to mail the file-stamped copy to you.
How to file online
Check your local Circuit Clerk’s website to see if online filing is an option for you. Follow the instructions for filing online provided by the Circuit Clerk. Pay the filing fee as instructed online or file your Application for Waiver of Court Fees.
Even if you can file online, you may have to appear in person to apply for a fee waiver. Ask the Circuit Clerk if you have to file your Application for Waiver of Court Fees in person.
What if I have arrests and charges from different counties?
If you have arrests, charges, or convictions that happened in more than one county, you must file separate requests for expungement or sealing in each county. A request should only include arrests, charges, and convictions that happened in one county. You will have to pay filings fees in each county where you file a Request unless they are waived in each county.
If your arrest, charge, or conviction happened in Cook County, go to the Circuit Clerk's Office in the district where you went to court. Cook County has the following 6 districts:
- Rolling Meadows
If you went to court in more than one district, you will need to file forms in each district where an arrest, charge, or conviction happened. Find the address to your district on the Circuit Court of Cook County website.
What if I move before my expungement or sealing case is over?
If you move before your case is over, notify the Circuit Clerk of your new address right away. If you do not tell the court your new address, you may not receive notices of court dates and copies of court orders.
Can anyone keep me from getting my criminal record expunged (erased) or sealed (hidden)?
The police departments and prosecutors that you listed on the Notice of Filing for Expungement and/or Sealing form get a chance to object to your Request to expunge or seal your criminal record. They have 60 days from the day they receive your request to file a written objection with the court.
If they object, it means they do not want your record to be expunged or sealed. If the agencies do not object during the 60 days, they cannot object at a later time.
How will I know if someone objects to my request?
The Illinois State Police will mail you a copy of their objection if any. An objection does not mean the court is denying your request. But the court will consider the objection when deciding if your criminal record will be expunged or sealed.
5. Go to your court date, if one is scheduled
Will I have a court date for my case?
You may need to go to court for a court date in front of a judge. Some counties schedule a court date right away, but others will only schedule a court date if one of the agencies you listed on the Notice of Filing for Expungement and Sealing form objects to your request.
If I am asked to come in for a court date, how does the court decide to approve or deny my request?
Requests for expungement or sealing are not automatically approved just because you are eligible under the law. To decide, the court may:
- Review any objections filed by the agencies you listed on your Notice of Filing for Expungement and Sealing form;
- Determine if you are eligible under the law;
- Review other factors it is allowed to consider, including:
- The strength of the evidence supporting a conviction;
- The reasons why the State, the Arresting Agencies, or Chief Legal Officers want to keep your records from being erased or hidden;
- Your age, criminal record history, and employment history;
- The period between your arrest on the charge resulting in the conviction and the filing of the Request; and
- The specific negative results you may suffer if the request is denied.
How should I prepare for my court date?
First, decide and write down specific negative results you may suffer if your request is denied. Examples include denied a job or housing.
Next, gather the following items, as you will need them for your court date:
- Photo I.D.
- Stamped copies of your request form;
- Order to Expunge & Impound and Seal
- Criminal records;
- Order Denying Request to Expunge & Impound and Seal Criminal Records;
- Notes or documents detailing your employment and educational history; and
- Other papers related to your request (like evidence of completion of a treatment program, letters of recommendation, proof of education, or degrees, etc.)
You have the right to represent yourself in court. However, you will be expected to follow the court's rules and procedures when representing yourself. The judge and court staff are not allowed to give you advice or help you with your case. To navigate the court system, you need to know some basic information about your case. Most of the information should be listed on court papers:
- Plaintiff's or Petitioner's name
- Defendant's or Respondent's name
- Case number
- Judicial circuit
If you are filing a case, you are called the plaintiff. If a case has been filed against you, you are called the defendant. In some cases, the plaintiff is called the petitioner, and the defendant is called the respondent.
- Be polite and dress the way you would for a job interview;
- Get to the courthouse at least 30 minutes before your hearing time;
- Go to the courtroom listed on your court forms. If your forms do not have a courtroom number, look for a list of cases at the courthouse or ask the circuit clerk;
- Check-in quietly with the courtroom staff;
- Wait for your name and case number to be called;
- When your case is called, walk up to the judge and introduce yourself;
- Explain briefly what you want out of the case;
- After listening to you and to the other side, the judge tells you what happens next.
How do I present my case to the judge?
Tell the judge your side of the case and answer any questions. Be prepared to tell the judge about specific negative results you may suffer if your request is
You will have a chance to respond to any objections to your request. The agencies that you listed on your Notice of Filing for Expungement and Sealing form may be at your court date and could ask you questions about your case.
6. Understand your rights if your request was approved
How will I find out if my request is approved or denied?
If you do not receive a copy of the Order in court, the Circuit Clerk will mail you a copy of it. The Order will say whether your request was approved or denied.
What do I do with the Order after I get it?
If your request was approved, it is very important that you keep a copy of the Order that you receive from the Circuit Clerk in a safe place. Once your arrests or cases are expunged or sealed, the court no longer has a court record for you, and it may be very difficult to get another copy of the Order.
If my request is approved, how long does it take for my record to be expunged or sealed?
If the judge approves your request, a copy of the Order will be sent by the Circuit Clerk to the police departments and prosecutors that you listed on the Notice of Filing for Expungement and Sealing. These agencies have 60 days from the time they receive a copy of the Order to expunge or seal your records.
How will I know when my record has been expunged or sealed?
The Illinois State Police will send you a letter stating that they have expunged or sealed your records. Until you receive this letter from the Illinois State Police, your records have not yet been expunged or sealed.
Can anyone find out about my criminal record once it has been expunged or sealed?
Some agencies will be able to find out that you expunged a criminal record and see your sealed records:
- Law enforcement agencies (including police departments, prosecutors, correctional institutions, military, and court services), and the Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS) can see all sealed records, expunged pardoned convictions, and some five-year waiting-period expunged records, for limited purposes.
- Any employer required by law to conduct fingerprint background checks can see sealed felony conviction records. These employers include financial institutions, fire departments, private courier companies, schools, park districts, healthcare organizations, and childcare organizations.
An employer not listed above, and members of the public, can’t see expunged or sealed records or find out that you have had a record expunged or sealed.
If my records are expunged or sealed, do I have to tell employers or potential employers about it?
No, you do not have to tell employers about expunged or sealed criminal records.
On job applications, you may answer “no” to the question, “have you ever been convicted” if your entire criminal record was expunged or sealed.
Note: In Illinois, private employers with 15 or more employees are not allowed to ask if you have ever been convicted of a crime.
If you applied for expungement or sealing and the court has not decided yet, if asked, you still have to report your criminal record to a potential employer after an interview or conditional offer of employment.
It is against the law for employers to ask if you have expunged or sealed any criminal records unless they are one of the agencies above authorized
If an employer finds out that you expunged or sealed any criminal records, they cannot use that against you.
7. Appeal or ask for reconsideration if your request was denied
If your request is denied, there are two things you can do:
Ask for reconsideration
You can ask the Circuit Court to look at your request again. File a Motion for Reconsideration with the Circuit Clerk within 60 days from the day you received a copy of the Order denying your Request.
There is no fee to use eFileIL, but there is a fee to file most forms with the court and additional court costs. The amount depends on the type of case you have and the county where you are filing. Contact your local circuit clerk's office for information on the fees. If you do not pay the fees required your e-filed document may be rejected. These fees are calculated by the eFileIL system and may also include a credit card or eCheck processing fee.
If you do not have money to pay court fees, use the Application for Waiver of Court Fees program.You must send a copy of your Motion and Notice of Motion forms to the State's Attorney, Arresting Agencies, Chief Legal Officer of the Unit of Local Government, and Illinois State Police.
Learn more about filing a motion.
You can ask the Appellate Court to review the Circuit Court decision. Learn more about appealing a court case.
Updated: January 2018